Hamilton County is offering property tax relief for low-income homeowners
Hamilton County's federal stimulus funding now includes property tax relief for low-income homeowners, in addition to mortgage and utility assistance launched two months ago.
"We will be sending a mailing out today to every delinquent tax payer in the county, alerting them to the details of the program and making sure that they're aware of its existence," says Hamilton County Treasurer Jill Schiller.
The program is funded by $5 million from the American Rescue Plan. Homeowners who make 80% or less of the area median income are eligible:
- 1-person household: $47,850
- 2-person household: $54,650
- 3-person household: $61,500
- 4-person household: $68,300
- 5-person household: $73,800
- 6-person household: $79,250
The property owner has to live in the home (no rentals, Airbnb, or second homes) and show proof of lost income during the pandemic. Up to six months of past-due payments can be covered, dating back to March 2020.
About 100 households have already applied for mortgage and utility assistance.
"We were taking care of property tax payments that were in escrow through that program," says Schiller. "But this is for folks who either don't have a mortgage or who pay their property taxes separately from the mortgage."
Schiller says it took time to confirm the ARP money could be used for property tax relief.
"There were some questions as to the use of funds being paid directly to a governmental entity," Schiller says. "But since this actually helps homeowners, we were able to marshal the prosecutor's office to look into this for us. And we managed to clear a couple of the hurdles more quickly than we had feared."
Hamilton County has distributed more than $22 million in rent and utility assistance since July 2020, helping a total 7,736 households. Officials with both the county and Cincinnati have had significant backlogs in applications for rental assistance.
Kevin Holt, interim assistant director for Job and Family Services, says that's still an issue; it takes an average 45 calendar days for a renter applying for help to get the payment, while the goal is 10-30 business days.
"So the important message there is this is not an emergency program," Holt says. "We're paying not just your back-owed rent and utility, but we're paying months forward. So if you want to come to us, give us a little bit of time —and then we're going to bring big dollars to the table — but don't come to us at the last moment."
Commission President Stephanie Summerow Dumas says the need is still high.
"Whether or not we've reached everyone that we want to reach, that's another question," she says. "And that's why we're really trying to get media out in all kinds of venues to make sure people are aware of it, because we do not want to leave any money on the table."